Lennon in America: Based in Part on the Lost Lennon Diaries, 1971-1980

Overview

John Lennon is one of the most well known founders of rock 'n' roll. The glamour surrounding the life and death of this superstar has been portrayed in myriad books. But never from his own point of view. Lennon in America goes beyond the guesses, allegations, and suppositions to get to the explosive truth of the matter. Geoffrey Giuliano looks at the man who was perpetually at odds with himself and unravels the mystery of Lennon's private life through interviews with family members and friends, letters, and never...
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Overview

John Lennon is one of the most well known founders of rock 'n' roll. The glamour surrounding the life and death of this superstar has been portrayed in myriad books. But never from his own point of view. Lennon in America goes beyond the guesses, allegations, and suppositions to get to the explosive truth of the matter. Geoffrey Giuliano looks at the man who was perpetually at odds with himself and unravels the mystery of Lennon's private life through interviews with family members and friends, letters, and never before published diaries and tapes from Lennon himself. What the book reveals in chapter after chapter, is a man desperate for help but surrounded by people Lennon perceived to be bent on his continued fall into depression, bulimia, and cultism. The reader finds that Lennon is full of contradiction—devoted husband and adulterer; he is portrayed as a doting dad, but was an absentee father; a macrobiotic health enthusiast who wrestled with alcoholism, heroin addiction, and bulimia; he was a spokesman for world peace, but was unable to control his volcanic temper; a vocal feminist and recalcitrant chauvinist; an innovative and influential rock 'n' roller who renounced music for years. As this book makes abundantly clear, Lennon himself was painfully conscious of his weaknesses, excesses, and failings, of the disparity between the public image and his everyday person. He spent a lifetime struggling to understand himself and to reconcile the conflicts within him, a struggle that ended in New York in 1980 when he was assassinated. Lennon in America offers a revolutionary and all-too-human view of the twentieth century's most legendary rock 'n' roller by the writer most qualified to tell the tale.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In an attempt to build the most "human" Lennon composite--libidinous, possibly bisexual, drug-addled, self-loathing and Yoko-controlled--Giuliano (Glass Onion, Two of Us, etc.) spent 16 years interviewing Beatles insiders, listening to rare audiotapes, amassing Lennon's personal correspondence and examining his much-talked-about unpublished diaries, of which Giuliano obtained a copy in 1983. "Can you imagine," the longtime Beatles biographer gasps in his introduction, "what it feels like to hold in your hand a document you know has the power to change the course of Beatles history completely and forever?" After trumpeting a publishing revolution, he then warns readers that they "will not find in this book the voice of John Lennon as quoted from his diaries." Nor will they find paraphrases, because Lennon's entries "were often incomplete thoughts and snippets--the exact meaning of which is difficult to discern." If Giuliano's own double-talk isn't enough to diminish this work's credibility, his endless, voyeuristic descriptions of Lennon's sexual encounters are. Giuliano believes that Lennon's mother, Julia, who allegedly placed her son's hand on her breast when he was 14 years old, is to blame for his hero's idiosyncrasies. At first Giuliano's intentions to give Lennon admirers "some truth" seem earnest, but in the end it seems that he seeks only to shock. "It's very unhealthy to live through anybody," Lennon said after Elvis's death, but Giuliano keeps trying to worm his way into Lennon's soul in this crude, predictable exhumation. 70 b&w photos not seen by PW. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
A bit like Albert Goldman s The Lives of John Lennon through a soft-focus lens, this book ( based in part on the lost Lennon diaries ) looks at the artist s life during the 1970s, examining his paranoia and exposing myths about the nature of his character. Giuliano, renowned for his biographical work on the Beatles, is clearly sympathetic toward the smart Beatle and, to paraphrase a song by the subject, simply wants to give us some truth. Beatle fanatics will be fascinated by the minutiae within, including the truth behind political prisoner John Sinclair and the details of Apple s dissolution. In fact, the book occupies itself with everything from Lennon s masturbatory habits to his recurring religious awakenings. Non-fans will be put off by this image of Lennon as cad, drug addict, and paranoiac; this often sensationalized account is for voyeurs and fans with deconstructive tendencies and is one of the best, most detailed books available on this subject. [For another revealing account of Lennon, see also Robert Rosen s Nowhere Man, LJ 5/1/00. Ed.] Colin Carlson, New York Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780815410737
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/28/2000
  • Pages: 300
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.28 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Meet the Author

Geoffrey Giuliano is a well-known international celebrity biographer, record producer, actor and pop culture authority. He also lectures occasionally at Northwestern University. He lives in Lockport, near Buffalo, NY.
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Read an Excerpt




Chapter One


WHO LOVES A KING
Revolution For The Hell Of It
1971


There was something oddly portentous about the way John Lennon departed England for the last time. His rambling 74-acre Ascot estate, Tittenhurst Park, lay in shambles. The white Georgian mansion resembled a crumbling mausoleum. When he all but gave it to Ringo in 1973 for payment of back taxes and the sizable repair tab, the formerly easygoing drummer-turned-lord-of-the-manor suddenly became a changed man: now volatile and moody, a heavy drinker and unfeeling womanizer. Unceremoniously dumping his loyal wife Maureen, Starr fled abruptly to Los Angeles. It seemed as if Tittenhurst had a negative influence on those who lived there.

    In reality the internal, bookish Beatle was not at all made for America. Arriving in the United States, Lennon wasted no time choosing a new home. As he later recalled, "It was Yoko who sold me on New York. She'd been poor here and knew every inch. She made me walk around the streets, parks, squares, and examine every nook and cranny. In fact, you could say I fell in love with New York on a street corner.... Not only was Yoko educated here, but she spent fifteen years living in New York, so, as far as I was concerned, it was just like returning to your wife's hometown."

    John's departure from England was given a significant push from Yoko. While Lennon loved the old estate and had for a time considered it his final home, the place was a constant reminder to Ono of how irrevocably tied shewas to her husband's overwhelming success. While she had hoped to springboard her own dubious "career" on John's popularity, it hadn't quite worked out that way. Frankly, Yoko's mile-high ambitions could not be satisfied by hiding out in rural Berkshire. So she set to work convincing John to emigrate, goading him with her tales of glory as the "Queen of the Happening," hoping to retrace her early steps in New York's burgeoning avant-garde. There are certainly mixed views as to how influential an artist she was in those days. Lauded by some, condemned by others, Ono's enduring legacy as a conceptual artist depends on to whom you speak.

    Furthermore, in England, Yoko was also faced with the issue of access to her husband. Their lavish and spacious Ascot showplace gave family and friends an ample excuse to visit. There was John's faithful cousin Leila, whose close kinship with the eccentric Beatle proved difficult to undermine. George Harrison and Ringo Starr also enjoyed hanging out at Tittenhurst, and thus came around frequently. Most problematic, of course, was the reintroduction of John's estranged son Julian, at six years old no longer a baby to be shunted out of mind. Yoko was secretly worried that any close contact with the boy might bring her new spouse closer to Cynthia, whom she despised.

    In luring John to America, Yoko utilized two major factors to her advantage. The first was his vulnerability to heroin, which Yoko admittedly introduced to his life. She encouraged the move by pointing out that they could both escape the long shadow of John's 1968 drug conviction and enjoy greater freedom to experiment with various pharmaceuticals. Besides, the drugs were purported to be much more potent in America. Overnight, John's eagerness to depart for the "Promised Land" increased significantly.

    The second draw was the recently completed Imagine album and its documentary companion (both produced at Tittenhurst), which required active promotion in the States. "Imagine is a big hit almost everywhere," said John at the time. "An anti-religious, anti-nationalistic, anti-conventional, anti-capitalistic song, but because it's sugar-coated, it's accepted. Now I understand what you have to do. Put your political message across with a little honey. This is what we do, Jerry [Rubin], Yoko, and the others, to try to change the apathy of young people. The apathy which exists in America (but which is infiltrating everywhere because everyone follows the American pattern, above all because of the music. The lifestyle of this century has been fashioned by America. Young people are so apathetic. They think there is nothing worthwhile to do and everything is finished. They want to take refuge in drugs and destroy themselves. Our work is to tell them there is still hope and still a lot to do. We have to change their minds; we have to tell them it's okay. Things can change and just because flower-power didn't work, it doesn't mean everything is finished. It is only the beginning. The revolution has only just begun. It is just the beginning of big changes!"

    Drummer Alan White remembers the "Imagine" sessions at Tittenhurst: "I spent about ten days down there. We all slept in the house, which was being heavily remodeled. John wanted to watch a particular program and the only telly was up in one of the bedrooms. I remember Clapton, John, Yoko, and myself all lying on the bed watching the telly after a session!

    "George Harrison kept poppin' in, different people were coming in from town, and we'd all sit around a big oak table in the kitchen with the builders working around us. It was very close. Being around John and George, having a couple of Beatles in the room, is very hard as they're the axis of everything that goes on. Especially a person as strong-willed as John, who always knew exactly what he wanted. He had that sound in his head. John played us `Imagine' before we started the album. He gave us a set of lyrics for every song and said, `This is what you're about to be saying to the world.'"

    According to photographer Kieron Murphy, also on hand for the sessions, Phil Spector garnered the most respect, especially from John, who treated the legendary producer like royalty. Their collaboration had begun with Lennon's infectious 1970 hit, "Instant Karma," and continued with the Plastic Ono Band. "It was almost as if he'd come out of the floor in a puff of smoke," said Murphy of Spector. "He had a very strong presence. Phil seemed to arrive without even coming into the room. Lennon was almost as in awe of Spector as I was of John. He leapt up to give him his chair, fussed around him, and got him tea. Everybody else was being a bunch of boisterous lads, swapping football stories, but Spector just sat there. Then Phil says to him very quietly, `John, I think we should make a start.' Whereupon Lennon leapt to his feet and literally took the cups of tea out of people's hands, frog marching them into the studio: `Phil wants us now!' I was amazed to see that John Lennon was willing to obey anybody!"

    Lennon offered rare insights into the recording of Imagine via an only recently discovered unpublished overview he wrote in 1971. The blistering "I Don't Want to Be a Soldier," for example, hailed from his "Working Class Hero" period. John praised its odd beat, but pointed out that many of the final lyrics were either lost or wrong. His wandering off-key vocals, reminiscent of Yoko's quirky deliveries, drew high praise from his wife.

    Lennon's moody treatise on self-doubt, "How," was George Harrison's favorite. While the verses were penned in 1970, the middle-eight—George's favorite part—was knocked off during the session. Lennon conceded the vocal could have been better, but was pleased overall with the number. He also noted that the guitar breaks were a challenge.

    The lengthy piece went on to discuss "How Do You Sleep?"—his stinging telegram launched at McCartney in response to Paul's cutting volleys on his Ram LP. John deemed it Harrison's finest guitar work and was especially proud of his own searing guitar riffs, although Lennon was critical of his rather strident vocals.

    Murphy recalls John writing the tune with Yoko at his feet taking down the lyrics. "He was literally making the album up as he went along and was teaching it to them. I thought at first it was a slag off to the fans because the first line is, `so Sgt. Pepper took you by surprise.' But it began to click when he sang `The only thing you done was "Yesterday" and so on.'"

    Artistically, when Lennon left his homeland for America, he was at the top of his game. Following the stark emotional purge of his complex Plastic Ono period, he now returned to more familiar poetic musings with the just completed Imagine (released in October 1971), his most successful solo work. The bittersweet holiday single "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" would become a perennial holiday favorite. Lennon was also on the verge of making important social and political contributions, speaking out on leftist issues in venues such as Tariq Ali's Marxist popular manifesto, Red, and supporting the landmark British miners' strike. But in his private life Lennon desperately sought an escape from fame and its oppressive trappings. He had also grown angry and weary of the media's relentless assaults upon Yoko. Thus, America afforded a real solution on several fronts. Wild and woolly, open-all-night America, the birthplace of rock and a haven for the downtrodden. But America was also the place where everything was for sale, including innocence and the very fame from which he had fled. As John's tragic karma rolled on, America would play a major part in his undoing. Still, John was very optimistic upon his arrival, as he noted, "I know there are rough areas in New York, but I don't visit them often. The district can change abruptly within one block, but I find I can walk the streets quite freely. People recognize me, but they don't trouble me too much. Sometimes they want to audition right there on the street, which can be a bit embarrassing. But they don't recognize me as much since I shaved my beard off. I shaved it off because I was finding it difficult to eat.

    "The cab drivers treat me almost as one of the locals. The younger, hippie types still regard me as a rock superstar; they're always turning right round to ask questions and terrifying me.

    "I like New Yorkers because they have no time for the niceties of life. They're like me in this regard. They're naturally aggressive, they don't believe in wasting time."

    During this period Yoko initiated an extended custody battle for her daughter Kyoko. It was an abrupt change of attitude considering her previous indifference to her daughter. Yoko, who had once referred to her pregnancy as a "tumor," had a history of dumping her child on anyone willing to take her. At one point she left her one-year-old daughter in Tokyo with her husband Tony Cox to travel to New York to pursue her "art." When Cox finally joined her, Ono left the toddler with Tony's relatives for some nine months, even arranging an adoption with Tony's aunt before her husband put a last-minute stop to it. When she migrated to London in 1966, she virtually abandoned Kyoko to pursue her affair with Lennon, only rarely spending time with her daughter. As longtime associate Jon Hendricks once put it, "Yoko never put her child before her career."

    In the wake of the Lennon's Primal Therapy, Yoko's third miscarriage, and the awareness that John's son Julian was growing up, Ono had a change of heart and decided in April 1971 that she wanted her daughter back. The resulting custody battle was so tenacious, acrimonious, and confusing that at one point both Tony and Yoko had legal custody in several different jurisdictions.

    For John the battle was particularly wrenching. Lennon's hot and cold relationship with Cox was revealed in a letter "welcoming" Tony to London: After telling Yoko's ex that Kyoko wanted her dad to visit, John none too tactfully exposed his jealous insecurity. Yoko was the only woman for him, he stressed, and he didn't want anything or anyone, particularly her former hubby, to rock the boat. John begged Cox to make his excuses that he couldn't get away and come see them after all. John made it clear he could hardly even abide speaking with Tony on the telephone.

    The court fight quickly became intensely personal when a judge asked Kyoko to choose between her parents. It brought back anguished memories of the day John was confronted with a similar choice: "I remember when it was happening to me. I was shattered." In Lennon's turbulent life everything seemed framed by the torment of his own fragmented childhood.

    Eventually, Lennon enlisted a regiment of top detectives, headed by a $50,000 Pinkerton investigator, in a full-blown, two-year search that ranged over the Virgin Islands, Texas, and California. Lennon gave Jon Hendricks some money to snoop around Houston and Sausalito, where Cox had been sighted, and Hendricks often had to jump into action at a moment's notice whenever a frazzled Yoko swore she'd seen her daughter.

    Another key figure in these activities was Ken Dewey, a talented performance artist from the wealthy New York Dewey family, and a former intimate of Ono, who had been tapped to become director of the New York Art Council. Tragically, while searching for Kyoko, he died in a small plane crash in Connecticut in August 1971. A memorial service was held at the family's estate in Sommerville, New York. Dressed entirely in black, a pale-faced Lennon appeared sombre and agitated as he and Yoko gave a silent concert, with John playing air guitar and Yoko an imaginary piano. When a photographer snapped a photo during the proceedings, Lennon exploded. He grabbed the camera, confiscated the film, and tossed the photographer a wad of money, screaming "I don't want you taking pictures!" After the service, Lennon hosted an exhibit of his drawings and writings in the Deweys' barn. The tribute further included an embarrassing John-and-Yoko blood-brothers ritual. Those close to the rocker say guilt over the young man's death eventually convinced John to call off the worldwide search.

    Another player in the extended custody drama was me ubiquitous Allen Klein, the ballsy business manager who eventually bullied his way into the case. Cox and his wife Melinda, along with eight-year-old Kyoko, were on the isle of Majorca attending a meditation seminar being taught by Lennon's former guru, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Finding the girl alone in a playground in Palma in April 1971, Klein and Lennon whisked her off to their hotel, the Melia Mallorca. Cornered by the local police, the Lennons were detained some fourteen hours pending a possible kidnapping charge. They were eventually released.

    In the interim, Cox spirited away the confused little girl once again. John found the whole matter extremely distasteful, as if he were pursuing "an escaped convict." "It was a classic case of big boys playing macho. It turned into me and Klein trying to dominate Tony Cox. Tony's attitude was, `You got my wife, but you won't get my kid!' I'll always feel badly about it. It became a case of the Shootout at the OK Corral: Cox fled to the hills, hid out, and the sheriff and I tracked him down."

    Later John again flew to the States to pursue yet another lead, this one claiming that Cox had been spotted at his parents' home on Long Island. According to Tony's brother Larry, Klein dispatched a burly detective to bully his way into Larry's home to flush out Cox, who was nowhere to be found. An infuriated John was said to have erupted, "It would be easier for me to have him killed than take any more of his fuckin' shit!"

    Perhaps the most absurd and desperate episode occurred in July 1972 when the Lennons returned to California, this time San Francisco, once more trying to smoke out the wily Cox. They drafted Craig Pyes, editor of a hippie magazine called Sundance, to escort them around the Bay area in his old VW, hoping to spot Kyoko. One day a hysterical Yoko, certain she'd spotted Cox going into an apartment complex, ordered Pyes to go door-to-door so John and Yoko could stake out the rear windows, hoping to catch Cox stealing out the back. Imagine catching sight of the great John Lennon and his Japanese consort racing around one's backyard, and you get a sense of the deep absurdity of the endeavor.

    In a calmer moment Lennon eventually issued a truce to Cox: "We'd like to stop the war (whatever it is) and be sensible about this, without detectives, FBI, guns, and people jumping on them in the middle of the night. It is like a divorce. It's as if war has been declared. It gets unreal, particularly with a child involved. It should happen friendly and mutually without lawyers, courts, agents, or detectives."

    For his part, Cox defended his actions in an obscure, strangely conciliatory 1981 interview. He painted an initially rosy picture of his relationship with Lennon, with the two men discussing everything from fish recipes for their cats to various philosophical dogmas. Cox revealed that Lennon's mystically fueled "Instant Karma" was the result of a profound talk with his wife Melinda. "One thing," said Cox, "that was really evident was that John wanted to escape from the prison of his fame. And despite our worst moments he always wanted to be friends. As a gesture of friendship he gave me a guitar that had been given him by the Beatles Fan Club of America on his first United States tour.

    "Yoko wanted access to Kyoko and we weren't against that. In fact, we had just sent her to the Lennons for what was to have been a six-month visit prior to their visit on our farm. In their hearts they wanted to be friends, and there were several occasions when we all tried to work and live near each other. But Melinda and I would find such havoc introduced into our lives, we would have to withdraw. It was also very expensive as well as nerve-racking. Keep in mind that this was John and Yoko's most unstable period, and like everything else they did, it was larger than life. As it turned out, it took them another five years before they even began to stabilize. Prior to that, any contact with them was like touching some high-voltage machine.

    "As part of their trying to gain custody of Kyoko, I was hounded by an army of private detectives and even thrown in jail. I should add, however, that this was the final straw in what was already an exceedingly heavy situation. I had now experienced almost total financial ruin on two occasions with considerable losses in between."

    Despite pouring over $250,000 into the search, the Lennons were consistently outfoxed, always just one small step behind the clever Cox. The distressing situation reached its nadir over Christmas 1971. Although Cox had been awarded temporary custody of the child, Ono was granted generous visitation rights that included an initial ten-day visit. Upon arriving in Houston on Christmas Eve, John and Yoko, with the law on their side, at last anticipated seeing the youngster. First came Kyoko's not-so-merry yuletide greeting over the phone: "Mummy, I don't want to see you!" Next, despite being thrown in jail on a five-day sentence for contempt, Cox still managed to steal away with the girl, fleeing underground to a fundamentalist Christian group. A distraught Lennon cried, "I'm living with a woman who is screaming for her child every night. We've got so desperate we've been putting messages on our records. We've got a Christmas song out that begins with `Happy Christmas, Kyoko.'

    "We've done everything we can to come to an amicable agreement with the father," he continued. "In all, it's cost us a lot of money and a shaft of broken promises. Yoko loves her daughter and I can't let her suffer like this any longer. What effect can all this be having on poor Kyoko?"

    In fact, both baby-sitters and relatives described the eight-year-old as a defensive, often arrogant "mini adult" with daggerlike eyes and a habit of speaking like a stoned hippie. Insiders say she was often famished from a Yoko-imposed macrobiotic diet and encouraged to watch television constantly by her chronically absentee, fame-seeking mother.

    Even in March 1972, when Ono was officially awarded sole custody, it was a Pyrrhic victory, as Cox blatantly refused to comply with the court order. Lennon was reduced to writing Kyoko a desperate birthday letter: "Happy birthday Kyoko, we want peace, no police, no FBI, no detectives. We understand the problem. Please get in touch with us through any group or media you trust. We are making no moves. We will wait for your call or letter. War is over if you want it. Give us a chance. Love and Peace, John Lennon."

    In 1974 Cox phoned John, saying Kyoko could visit John and Yoko over Christmas in exchange for Lennon's promise to produce a film by Cox. John sent tickets for father and daughter to fly to New York, but they never appeared.

    With the Lennons' frequent trips back and forth across the Atlantic, they decided that only by staying in the United States could they effectively conduct their search. Due to immigration problems John was advised to enter the country via St. Thomas. The troubled rock star managed to keep his sense of humor, as evidenced by the BOAC airlines questionnaire he filled out during the flight: "Occupation: Artist. Reasons for making trip: World Peace. Additional comments: Why no films?" Ono blithely added, "A bed and bath would also be convenient."

    On August 13, 1971, America's newest immigrants swept into Manhattan's premier bastion of wealth and propriety, John Astor's St. Regis Hotel. They took over three suites on the seventeenth floor bringing with them some eighteen trunks of belongings. Initially, Lennon was preoccupied with several ongoing projects he had begun in London, foremost being the publicity junket for Imagine, and the accompanying documentary of the same title. But the larger push was actually for Yoko, with the Lennons plugging her book Grapefruit, her far-out films Fly and Up Your Legs Forever, and the release of her haunting single "Mrs. Lennon." When the press coverage became venomous, John played the concerned husband, constantly issuing damage control to fortify his wife's besieged image. Together, they held carefully orchestrated interviews and appeared on public access television to promote the, by now, fairly tired John-and-Yoko love fest in the New World. Lennon's secretary, May Pang, noted that when together the two rarely displayed any physical intimacy. Although Pang didn't doubt their love, she observed no outward show of intimacy between them, unlike other rock couples she had known. "They behaved more like children snuggling against each other to ward off any demons that might be loose in the night," Pang observed. Interestingly enough, super groupie Jo Jo Laine made the very same observation about the relationship of Paul and Linda McCartney.

    Unfortunately, efforts to promote Yoko as a solo artist were largely fruitless. Neither the public nor the media had any real interest in her off-key caterwauling or disappearing artworks. Lennon was compelled to defend her at every turn, as demonstrated in a public letter he wrote to Melody Maker, dated October 6, 1971, in response to an article the magazine had recently run: "1) We were seeing the press specifically to plug Grapefruit. Nothing else was going on. Communication breakdown? 2) The Joe Jones Tone Deaf Music Co. is on Yoko's album Fly, not mine. 3) Yoko never wears clogs on her most divine and beautiful little feet!" The postscript noted, "Except for the inevitable sneers we enjoyed your article."

    At this time Lennon also felt betrayed by another hip magazine, Rolling Stone. He had granted Jann Wenner an exclusive and extensive interview in December 1970 on the condition it would run only in that periodical. Wenner, eager to launch Rolling Stone's Straight Arrow Press, promptly published the now legendary compilation Lennon Remembers in the fall of 1971. An enraged John fired back this missive to Wenner: "As your company was failing (again) and as a special favor (Two Virgins was the first), I gave you an interview which was to be run one time only with all rights belonging to me. You saw fit to publish a book of my work without my consent and against my wishes. I told you many times on the phone and in writing that I did not want a book, album, or anything else made from it!" John was adamant and withdrew Apple's advertising from the magazine for a year. Lennon and Wenner eventually, however, made their peace.

    Ono's primary artistic goal in coming to the States was to reestablish herself in New York's avant-garde scene. Once again, Ono's star was supposed to shine with her ambitious This Is Not Here retrospective at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York. Yoko wasted little time in launching the elaborate showcase, which would prove to be her first and last major exhibition during her years with John. Tapping Lennon as "guest artist" (his contribution was a pink plastic bag labeled "Napoleon's Bladder"), she scheduled it on October 9th, John's thirty-first birthday, in an attempt to capitalize on the auspicious date. There is no definitive way of judging the event's success on the basis of Ono's art alone, but it seems doubtful that the administration of Syracuse University would have hosted a ten-day retrospective of Yoko Ono's work were it not for the presence of John Lennon. It seems equally dubious that 8,000 young people (including this author) would stand in line to view a running toilet, or a rotting apple on a pedestal, displayed by Mrs. Lennon, without the added attraction of glimpsing her famous spouse.

    As for John, he was falling in love with New York City, a vibrant metropolis that fed his kinetic, insomniac nature. "I love New York. It's the hottest city going! I haven't been everywhere, but it's the fastest city on earth. The difference between New York and London is the difference between London and Liverpool.

    "Slaves were brought to Liverpool and then shipped out to America. On the riverfront in Liverpool you can still see the rings in the side where they were chained. We got the records, the blues and rock, right off the boats and that's why we were so advanced musically. In Liverpool, when you stood on the edge of the water, you knew the next place was America." He added, "It's the only place I've found that can keep up with me." And later he admitted, "I'm sort of fascinated by it, like a fucking monster."

    November opened with a memorable session for the single "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," which John would later reference in his frustration about the search for Kyoko. This session was also co-produced by Phil Spector. John declared he penned the tune "because I was thoroughly sick of `White Christmas.'" Spector wasted no time informing John that the opening lines were lifted from the 1960s tune "I Love How You Love Me," a hit for Bobby Vinton. Lennon admitted occasionally pilfering from the old classics, noting the pitfalls of possible copyright infringement. (It was a lesson he would painfully learn just a few years down the road during the Rock 'n' Roll debacle, which would pit him against notorious producer Morris Levy.)

    The session reunited Jim Keltner on drums and pianist Nicky Hopkins with guitarist Hugh McCracken, who also played on Paul McCartney's Ram. Lennon couldn't resist quipping, "So you were just auditioning on Ram, were you?"

    The subject of Paul hit a nerve when Phil asked John if he'd heard McCartney's latest LP. Spector told him, "It's really bad, just four musicians and it's awful."

    "Don't talk about it. It depresses me."

    "Don't worry, John," consoled Phil. "Imagine is number one and this will be number one, too. That's all that matters."

    "No, it's not that. It's just that whenever anybody mentions his name, I don't think about the music. I think about all the old business crap. So please don't talk about him."

    With the session under way Lennon and Spector worked together intuitively, generating a productive give-and-take. John would begin a sentence with, "I like ones that sound like records" and Phil would complete the thought "before you've made 'em." Bassist Klaus Voorman confirmed their natural rapport, noting that each appreciated the other's musical vision. "There were never any problems. No fights or arguments. Phil was very easy to get on with."

    One thing that did draw Spector's ire was Lennon's constant chain-smoking, which naturally affected his voice. Phil shouted the ultimate indictment, "Yoko's outsinging you, John!" while muttering to those in the control booth, "He's smoking his ass off while he's fucking!"

    A few sour moments ensued when Yoko made a vain bid to dominate the sessions. First she argued with John over his refusal to play organ, then tried to dictate the tempo to pianist Hopkins, and ultimately chastised the band for its impromptu jams between takes. Still, the final result was the inspirational Christmas classic.

    Reasoning that they couldn't live forever in a hotel, the Lennons moved to a permanent dwelling that fall. John, particularly, had been growing uncomfortable with the hotel's decadent opulence. On November 1st the couple left the St. Regis to settle on Bank Street, a quiet cobblestone street in New York's West Village, Yoko's old stomping ground. The tiny, stark, two-room-plus-kitchenette basement apartment, with its beige walls trimmed in green, was distinguished by a large American flag and an open, iron spiral staircase leading to a skylight. An enormous bed, its headboard fashioned from an antique church pew, dominated the main room. This new downsizing was right in character for chameleon Lennon's next persona—that of millionaire hippie revolutionary.

    The transformation happened so swiftly that Lennon didn't realize until years later he had been "conned" by the rabble-rousing "Mork and Mindy of the New Left," Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman. The outrageous pair first swooped down on Lennon during a June trip to New York, and anointed him their savior in a ragtag parade in Washington Square Park. David Peel, a street musician with a silly novelty tune called "The Pope Smokes Dope," led the march.

    Lennon recalled: "I got off the boat, only it was an aeroplane, and landed in New York and the first people who got in touch with me were Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman. It's as simple as that. It's those two famous guys from America who's calling, `Hey, what's happenin', what's going on?' The next thing you know I'm doing John Sinclair benefits and one thing and another. I'm pretty movable as an artist, you know. They almost grabbed me off the plane and the next minute I'm involved."

(Continues...)

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Imagine Nation: Uncovering the Lennon Legacy
Prologue: Cry Baby Cry: Early Neglect and Sex Thereafter 1
1 Who Loves a King, 1971: Revolution for The Hell Of It 23
2 Lifting the Veil, 1972-1974: Beyond the Lost Weekend 49
3 Kaleidoscope Eyes, 1975: Apple And Isolation 67
4 Two Virgins, 1976: The Conning Of A Beatle 105
5 Tunnel of Love, 1977: Born Again Beatle 127
6 Paper Soul, 1978: Genius of Pain 151
7 Conspiracy of Silence, 1979: Love, Lies, And Death 177
8 Stupid Bloody Tuesday Man, 1980: The Assassination Of John Lennon 207
Family Tree 227
Chronology 229
Discography 243
A Note on Sources/Credits 253
Index 257
The Author 271
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2007

    A reviewer

    This book was alright. It wasnt anything special, but it wasnt terrible. i enjoyed reading it and it was interesting, but being as big of a John Lennon fan as i am, i've learned so much about him throughout my life and I've read so many different biographies about him, and i jsut dont feel that this book depicted him very well. I didnt like the way this author made it sound like he was inside of Lennons head. He made it sound like he knew all of Lennons thoughts and feelings, and i dont think the way that he protrayed Lennon was very accurate at all. This book did not do Lennon his deserved justice. It was a pretty well written book and did like it, but I think that if you are really interested in reading an accurate biography about John Lennon, this isnt it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2003

    WHY?

    ANYONE WHO HAS EVER CONFUSED THE ARTIST WITH THE MAN HAS UTTERLY MISSED THE POINT. EVERY HUMAN HAS IT'S FRAILTIES. THE FACT THAT JOHN LENNON DID IS NO BIG REVELATION TO ME. HIS ART WAS HIS ATTEMPT TO DRAG HIMSELF, AS WELL AS THE WORLD, OUT OF IT'S IGNORANCE AND INTO A MORE ENLIGHTENED STATE. WHAT I'M FASCINATED WITH IS AN ARTIST'S VISION NOT HIS FLAWS. WE CAN ALL LOOK IN THE MIRROR AND SEE FLAWS BUT HOW MANY OF US CAN LOOK AND SEE DREAMS.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2001

    Gimme some truth - but not too much!!

    Lennon fans will not be able to put this book down, but for those just interested in the music Giuliano's book might not be to your taste. He does not set out to enlighten us about Lennon's music. Instead we get a steady stream of almost unbearable revelations regarding Lennon's recurring personal, sex, drug, and family problems. Here was a man very far removed from the Lennon & Ono propagated myth of the happy 'house-husband'. Lennon emerges as a very unhappy human being, constantly aware of his failings especially in regard to women and his cravings for illicit substances. It seems that his guilt and self loathing became manifest in his crazy diets and spiritual adventures, but none of these seemed to offer the ex-Beatle any permanent peace of mind. If Lennon comes across as being somewhat crazy in his private life, then Yoko Ono fairs no better. Giuliano takes no prisoners. She is revealed as a highly manipulative, superstitious, and wholly undesirable character. But those Beatles fans who blamed her for the break up of the Beatles knew that anyway, so why read Giuliano's book to work that one out? On the positive side, Yoko's business acumen was something that Lennon admired and desperately needed as he hardly had the ability himself, and her talents as a businesswoman have become obvious since John's death in 1980. However, her attempts to whitewash Lennon's memory since then will always leave a bitter taste in the mouth of anyone reading this book. The 'John & Yoko story', as Giuliano so accurately rips apart, emerges as just a myth; though before his death Lennon did point out that his marriage was hardly perfect. So then, if you want your hero to be like the guy you saw in 'Imagine' don't read this book - stick to the music. But if you do have the stomach for an obsessively detailed stripping down of the John Lennon image, then this is the book for you. Personally I found this book a bit too much to take in, but I still kept reading out of a voyeuristic urge. There is something intriguing about the personal lives of exceptional people like Lennon, especially when they emerge so differently from the accepted public image. Despite all this I still remain a great fan of John Lennon and found this an absorbing read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2001

    BAD HABITS

    It is a bad habit to judge art in respect with the artist. As many of us know what the artist has to say to us he said it in his work. When I write my diary I do it for a specific reason, I attempt to succeed in something. The world is a wonderful pile of scattered garbadge as someone used to say two thousand plus years ago, Lennon seems to have thought so, that's probably why he let his diaries out.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2000

    A Good Read About Another Fallen Icon

    Giuliano seems to have a fine sense of his subject and unfortunetly he tells the truth. Adding credence to his sometimes subjective reporting is the fact that he is in possession of some of Lennon's diaries. Lennon comes across as a weak, sometimes perverted junkie and that may be just a little too much for his many fans. On the other hand, those who believe Yoko Ono broke up the Beatles and is therefore one of the most evil manipulative people on the planet will be vindicated here. The sad realities portrayed here in detail are enough to make you laugh at some of Lennon's lyrics. While he was toting 'Give Peace a Chance' and 'All You Need Is Love' he was at constant war with his family and treating most everyone terribly. The foundation of this book is that Lennon was just like us, flawed and insecure at times; however, Lennon takes his insecurities to the extreme. You are brought into the know here. Lennon's diet, his drug habits, his personal demons, his marital problems, his totally screwed up life. At times petty, at others generous to a fault. Lennon is portrayed as unbelievably naive and childlike but with very adult problems he can't handle. The author also graces us with many fine pictures of Lennon and his family with a few shots of the author himself with Ono and son Sean for good measure. It must be hard for anyone to stare at his idol's frailities and to pour over his day to day life. Giuliano not only brings this icon down to earth, he cuts him to ribbons along with almost everyone else his critical eye strays upon. Bottom line: it's a good read but if you like your heroes as you knew them, skip this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2000

    Remarkable and eye-opening!

    When I first started to read this book I could not put it down. Being a hardcore to moderate Beatles fan, I could not resist getting an intimate insight into this genius Beatle. The book is very well written, It gives an extreme probe into Lennon almost too honestly. Some parts of it I found shocking and very sad. The author had done an excellent job in detailing Lennons persona, habits and true character. In addition I found myself laughing out loud in some sections. It is an eye opener definately. I highly recommend to any Beatles fan, its entertaining, funny, and sad all at the same time.

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